New York train derailment: Safety officials recover ‘black box’

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NEW YORK - Investigators have recovered the “event recorder” from a Metro-North train that derailed in New York City early Sunday, a major step toward determining what caused the crash that killed four people and left scores injured.

Earl F. Weener of the National Transportation Safety Board said at a news briefing that the agency expected to have investigators on the scene in the Spuyten Duyvil area of the Bronx for a week to 10 days.

“Our mission is to understand not just what happened but why it happened, with the intent of preventing it from happening again,” Weener said. He said investigators had not yet talked to the train’s operator. Some local media have said the operator has claimed that he tried to slow down at the sharp curve where the derailment occurred but that the brakes failed.


The speed limit at the curve is 30 mph, compared to about 70 mph on straight sections of track.

Gov. Andrew Cuomo said the area is “dangerous by design,” because of the curve, but he said the bend in the track alone could not be blamed for the crash.

“That curve has been here for many, many years,” he told reporters at the scene, as darkness fell over the wreckage. “Trains take the curve every day ... so it’s not the fact that there’s a curve here. We’ve always had this configuring. We didn’t have accidents. So there has to be another factor.”

A freight train carrying trash derailed near the Spuyten Duyvil station in July, but nobody was injured, and that incident occurred in a different area of the tracks.

The Metropolitan Transportation Authority won’t be able to begin repair work on the tracks until the NTSB finishes its investigation and turns the site over to the MTA. Cuomo said a crane would be used to turn the toppled train cars upright.

While police have said they believe they have accounted for all the people who were on the train, Weener left open the possibility that victims could be found underneath the still-overturned cars.


The crash was the first of a Metro-North train to involve passenger fatalities since the railroad was founded in 1983. But the railroad has had a rough few months. Last May, two of its trains collided in Connecticut, injuring dozens of people. The same month, a train struck and killed a Metro-North worker on the tracks.


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